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Updated: 54 min 11 sec ago

Amyloid Hypothesis Lives On—Solanezumab, Too, Despite “Siren Song”

12 hours 6 min ago

When Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) reported the day before Thanksgiving, that its Alzheimer’s treatment solanezumab failed to significantly improve the condition of people with a mild form of the disease, some observers immediately called it a final blow for the drug.

After all, it had also failed to improve a broader range of patients with mild to moderate disease in two trials that reported results in 2012. The bad news was also considered a gut punch to the popular “amyloid hypothesis” that many believe to explain the underlying cause to the memory-robbing disorder.

But research continues on solanezumab; the... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: Fast “Cures,” Trump In Time, CRISPR In Court & More

19 hours 16 min ago

What a week. The 21st Century Cures Act is now waiting President Obama’s promised signature after easy passage through Congress. President-elect Donald Trump re-stirred the drug-pricing pot with comments in Time Magazine and a reported FDA commissioner candidate who doesn’t seem to think much of the regulatory process. And a trio of judges met to hear brief—can we say edited?—arguments from both sides of the epic CRISPR patent fight.

We’ll start with the national news, check in with news from a big Alzheimer’s meeting, then dig into plenty more about the annual American Society of Hematology conference, surprising M&A, fundings, and... Read more »

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Craig Venter Used Own Posh Health Clinic To Diagnose His Cancer

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 09:17

Speaking at a conference in San Francisco Wednesday, geneticist Craig Venter revealed that he had just had surgery for prostate cancer three weeks ago. A health workup at his own high-end clinic, Health Nucleus, pinpointed the cancer.

Famous for leading one of two teams in the 1990s that raced to unlock the human genome, Venter said he had surgery soon after the diagnosis because the cancer was classified as “high grade,” meaning likely to grow and spread quickly, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“It was a surprise for me,” he said. There were no indications, such as elevated levels... Read more »

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Gurnet Point Invests $92M in Crossover Health to Fund Growth

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 02:46

Cambridge, MA-based Gurnet Point Capital has invested $92 million in Crossover Health, a six-year-old company that provides membership-based healthcare services to employers that are self-insured.

The funding is intended to increase the capital available for Crossover Health’s expansion and to buy out a portion of the company’s existing shareholders, the company said. The deal enables Crossover Health senior executives and Gurnet Point to become the company’s principal shareholders. Crossover Health, based about 75 miles north of San Diego in Aliso Viejo, CA, previously raised at least $21.5 million from Palo Alto, CA-based Norwest Venture Partners through two rounds.

Crossover Health is... Read more »

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Wake Up, Pharma—Trump Is Not Your Savior

Thu, 12/08/2016 - 02:01

Since the election, leaders in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals are acting like they got away with robbery. The Nasdaq Biotechnology Index went up 9 percent overnight on November 8th. With Donald Trump coming into office, the whole industry seems to have breathed a sigh of relief that the status quo—a continuous race toward higher prices—will last for at least a few more years.

The climate in the hospital where I work has been quite different. Subdued depression is the most common reaction, but I’ve seen some doctors cry and others fume about the election. I’ve heard doctors wonder whether their patients will... Read more »

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Senate Approves 21st Century Cures Act, Sending Bill to Obama

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 18:32

The U.S. Senate has voted overwhelmingly to approve the 21st Century Cures Act, a wide-ranging healthcare spending and reform bill that aims to infuse medical research with new funding and also speed up the regulatory approval process for new drugs and medical devices.

With the Senate’s 94-5 vote on Wednesday, the bill now advances to President Obama, who is expected to sign the bill into law. The U.S. House of Representatives last week voted 392 to 26 to approve the Act.

Provisions of the Cures Act include $4.8 billion to support the National Institutes of Health to support research in... Read more »

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At Late-Night ASH Talk, Juno Execs Look Beyond Stalled “Rocket” Trial

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 09:41

Juno Therapeutics is still mulling next steps for its lead product, an experimental cancer immunotherapy now stuck in limbo because five of 68 adult leukemia patients in its current study, a clinical trial called “Rocket,” have died from severe brain swelling caused by the treatment.

In an after-dinner review at the American Society for Hematology conference in San Diego, however, company executives spent most of their time touting other products in their pipeline for other cancers, in what sounded like the first step of a sharp pivot.

Juno (NASDAQ: JUNO) officials certainly acknowledged the serious matter of the patient deaths.... Read more »

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ASH Roundup: CAR-T Shuffle, Hemophilia Updates, Checkpoint Progress & More

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 08:58

Two years ago at the American Society of Hematology conference, excitement, not blood, was running in the streets of San Francisco. The cancer immunotherapy known as CAR-T was the star of the show, thanks to dazzling early data that showed more patients than not saw their leukemias and lymphomas knocked into remission by the living, genetically engineered cells.

For some developers the momentum continues, with two programs—one for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, one for kids with a type of leukemia—likely up for an FDA approval decision next year. But the field faces tough questions in months to come about patient deaths, in-house... Read more »

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Germany’s Software AG Adds Analytic Tools with Zementis Buyout

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 02:43

Software AG, a German software giant with 4,300 employees, has acquired San Diego-based Zementis, a specialist in machine learning and data science. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, according to a statement Friday, after the acquisition closed last week.

Zementis CEO Michael Zeller co-founded the company in 2004 to help customers glean new insights from big data by using predictive analytics. “We’ve been a pioneer in predictive analytics and data science,” Zeller said late yesterday by phone. “While we were ahead of our time when we started, now it’s become mainstream.”

Zementis and co-founder Wendy Cheung bootstrapped their business, “riding a... Read more »

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With Nod To Biden, Senate To Say Yes To “Cures” Spending, Reform Bill

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 21:31

The U.S. Senate cleared the way for the 21st Century Cures Act, an omnibus healthcare spending and reform bill, by voting 85-13 to end debate this evening.

It passed the House with 392 votes last week. After a final Senate vote as early as tomorrow, it will head to President Obama’s desk.

The president used his national weekly address to rally support, as well, highlighting the Act’s funding to address the opioid crisis and to sustain ambitious national biomedical research projects that his administration launched. The bill calls for $4.8 billion to the National Institutes of Health for cancer,... Read more »

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With Cowboys’ Backing, Blue Star Set to Boost Sports Startups

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 11:38

Dallas—Partners with a deep well of subject matter expertise and capital are on the top of any entrepreneur’s wish list.

Now an accelerator tailored to sports technology startups might be giving those founders a connection to the ultimate in sports and marketing royalty: the Dallas Cowboys.

The new Blue Star Accelerator, aimed at nurturing young tech companies in sports and entertainment, is expected to open up shop after the start of the new year. While details of the accelerator are still being worked out, ultimately the program is expected to be housed at the Cowboys’ headquarters in Frisco, TX, about... Read more »

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The Xconomy Immuno-Oncology Resource: A Mid-ASH T Cell Update

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 08:35

[Updated, 12/5/16, 4 p.m. See below.] If you’re following cancer immunotherapy, you might feel a bit swamped by this week’s wave of clinical data from experimental programs that turn living T cells into revved-up cancer fighters.

We’re updating our ongoing cancer immunotherapy trial resource with American Society of Hematology results, plus a few others we’ve dug up since we launched the resource in October. The idea is to provide a top-line look at how people have fared with the growing array of products, most of them still experimental, which have attracted so much attention but come with caveats as... Read more »

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This Week in Drug Pricing and Post-Election Healthcare Policy News

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 11:50

Healthcare news has been coming fast and furious in the fallout of the election, particularly this week. Read on below for the latest on the 21st Century Cures Act, the Trump Administration’s latest nominees, and a biopharma CEO’s warning to his peers on drug pricing.


—The House of Representatives passed a sweeping healthcare bill, the 21st Century Cures Act, by a wide 392-26 vote, a rebuke to critics who say the bill does nothing to stem high drug prices and will unwind FDA oversight in favor of faster approval of drugs and medical devices. The bill promises more... Read more »

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Bio Roundup: CAR-T Ups & Downs, Lilly’s Failure, Myeloma & More

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 11:00

We’ve packed some extra stuffing into the roundup this week to account for some burnt turkey delivered by biopharma in the few days before Thanksgiving—starting with Eli Lilly’s failed gamble in Alzheimer’s disease.

Lilly wasn’t alone, however. Several companies, among them Juno Therapeutics, Arrowhead Pharmaceutials, and Nivalis Therapeutics, have had some bad news for investors of late, sinking share prices and reminding folks just how quickly things can go south in biotech.

There’s plenty more to get to, from a developing race for a new type of multiple myeloma treatment, to the latest tidbits on the cancer immunotherapy front (and check... Read more »

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Connect Hands Out 10 Most Innovative New Product Awards

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 09:25

[Corrected 12/5/16, 9:35 am. Awards were made in 10 categories.] Connect, the San Diego nonprofit supporting local innovation and entrepreneurship, handed out its Most Innovative New Product Awards at a dinner last night in La Jolla—recognizing innovations that range from an inflatable satellite antenna to a mobile app for art museums.

Volunteer entrepreneurs, investors, and business executives evaluated 111 nominations in ten categories for the 29th annual awards. The list was winnowed to about 30 finalists who presented their products last month to a panel of judges seleecting the winner in each category.

There was no William W. Otterson... Read more »

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An Innovation Snapshot of Medellin, Colombia

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 05:00

As we fly over Cuba en route from Fort Lauderdale to Medellin, I am already imbibing the upcoming culture change from the happy chaos at the departure gate in Florida. The plane is surprisingly not full and my fellow passengers, primarily Hispanics, are in a sleepy good mood. We will be arriving at 1am and I have to navigate a taxi or Uber to the hotel. From my quick research, Medellin is a progressive city of 3 million, about a mile above sea level and being just about at the equator, temperate year round. It is the only city in Colombia... Read more »

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AttackIQ, Which Makes Tools to Assess Cybersecurity, Raises $8.8M

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 02:40

San Diego-based AttackIQ, a cybersecurity startup providing a Web-based platform for assessing network defenses, has finally closed its Series A round of founding, after raising a total of $8.8 million over the past three years, according to co-founder and CEO Stephan Chenette.

Institutional investors included San Francisco-based Index Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, and Telstra Ventures. In a statement Wednesday, AttackIQ said it plans to use the funding for sales and marketing efforts, to support ongoing initiatives with strategic partners, and to expand its services and engineering teams.

Chenette said the round also counts funding from AttackIQ’s early investors, a... Read more »

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Brushing Aside Critics, House Votes in Landslide for Cures Act

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 21:16

By a 392 to 26 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the omnibus healthcare legislation called the 21st Century Cures Act, bringing new funding for top Obama administration health priorities a big step closer to the outgoing president’s signature.

While critics of the bill questioned whether that funding would actually materialize in coming years, the administration signaled its support Tuesday, citing last-minute changes that eased some concerns. The bill now moves to the Senate, where the Republican leadership has promised a swift vote.

After two years and many delays, Congressional committees released the final draft, nearly 1,000 pages, over... Read more »

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RAM shift phase 2

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 16:30

[Editor’s note: Seattle-based sci-fi author Greg Bear has contemplated a day when intelligent machines, which are already assisting or replacing humans in manufacturing and transportation, could do his job, too. Indeed, a World Economic Forum study (PDF) predicts that technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics will replace some 5 million jobs by 2020, while also creating new occupations. 

We’re looking forward to Bear’s conversation on the topic of human writing in an age of intelligent machines with Textio CEO Kieran Snyder, a PhD in computational linguistics and cognitive science, at Xconomy Intersect, our upcoming Seattle tech... Read more »

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Trump Tabs Fiscal, Social Conservatives To Run U.S. Health Agencies

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 18:04

Two big pieces of the Trump healthcare puzzle have fallen into place. The President-elect’s transition team has nominated Georgia Republican congressman Tom Price to be Health and Human Services secretary. It has also tabbed Indiana health consultant Seema Verma to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In a statement, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman who has helped usher the biomedical omnibus package 21st Century Cures Act to the brink of a Congressional vote this week, called Price, an orthopedic surgeon, a “brilliant choice.” Price has been a leading critic of the Affordable Care... Read more »

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